RPTools is an open source tool set for PC designed to enhance pen and paper role-playing games. If you’re a RPG fanatic you are probably already aware of these tools or at least heard of them from your fellow gamers. After experimenting with the tools in my own Pathfinder and D&D games I decided to dig a little deeper and obtain an interview with the folks who have made these tools openly available to the general public!
NERD TREK interview with Frank Edwards & Keith Athey of RPTools.
Jonathan Nerdtrek: Hello Keith! Please tell our readers a bit about your RPTools programs and your role within the company.
Keith Athey: RPTools is a community devoted to producing open source software for the online gamer. By online we mean folks playing together from across the globe or those with projectors or networked laptops who use RPTools to speed game play. MapTool is by far the most used product but we have others including DiceTool, CharacterTool, InitiativeTool, and TokenTool. My role within the community is that of Bard. I do my best to spread the word about RPTools and try to bring even more people into our community of users.
Jonathan Nerdtrek: I have been checking out your RPTools programs and find them very impressive. Watching this tutorial video for MapTool has blown me away. Your attention to detail is astounding- love that you can click on an item to see its contents, open and close doors, and obtain a light source for each character on the battlemap.
Frank Edwards: I can’t take credit for most of the code — that belongs to the RPTools founder, Trevor Croft. However, real life has become much more real for him lately and he has left the product development in the hands of myself and Craig Wisniewski. We are attempting to carry the banner forward!
Jonathan Nerdtrek: My business partner Todd Gamble (D&D 3.5 Core, Forgotten Realms 3.5, 3x Ennie Award Winner) and I have built a website called Adventureaweek.com. This website is under beta testing and launches in 2012. I was curious if you had any ideas of how we could work together to benefit your tools and our game. We will have a lot of people who would probably like to play online with their friends. I think it’s quite amazing that you ask for nothing in return for your tools which in itself lends great credibility to your product.
Frank Edwards: You may be familiar with the name Jonathan Roberts of Fantastic Maps? He and Rite Publishing have produced the first commercial adventure (that I know of) that includes a MapTool campaign file as part of their module. We worked with Jonathan over the past couple of months to ensure that any tweaks we made to MapTool weren’t going to cause him any headaches for his campaign macros. If you haven’t seen The Breaking of Forstor Naga then you should check it out. He has a product entry on Paizo’s web site (the module is generic enough to run in any game system, but the campaign file is primarily for PF) that links to a YouTube video that shows how he has configured MapTool. I will warn you: he has set the bar pretty high IMO!
Jonathan Nerdtrek: Thank you Frank! I checked out the module you mentioned. It looks great! Are the Pathfinder statistics that are worked into that adventure generally available on RPTools programs, or are those custom stats that Jonathan Roberts worked in on his own?
Frank Edwards: Jonathan created his own “framework”, i.e. his own set of macros and game statistics. There are also user-contributed frameworks (on our forum under User Creations > Campaign Frameworks) that cover various game systems such as D&D3.5/PF, D&D4e, ShadowRun, GURPS, and so forth. I believe he created his own so that changes in the community version wouldn’t affect the functionality of his project, although he could have included the existing framework as part of his product (there are no royalties or similar issues with frameworks; most are covered by a Creative Commons license). I suppose you’d need to ask him that question. If you register on our forum at forums.rptools.net, he goes by the username torstan.
Jonathan Nerdtrek: Can you please tell us more about these tools and what each one does?
Keith Athey:MapTool is RPTools primary product. It allows online players to share maps, tokens, and chat across the internet. It allows for customization for whatever game system you use but can be used with almost any game system. DiceTool is a computer dice roller that allows for complex dice expressions. This code was folded into MapTool proper as time wore on but it still functions as a stand alone product. TokenTool allows you to rip images from the web or your local machine to quickly create tokens for use in MapTool or other VTTs. InitiativeTool was created to keep track and roll game initiative. MapTool has absorbed much of this functionality as well. CharacterTool is used to create custom character sheets for differing game systems. All the Tools are cross-platform, meaning they run on Windows, Mac, or Linux, and game system agnostic. All the software is free and game system agnostic. You can even download the source code, if you like.
Jonathan Nerdtrek: Keith and Frank, thank you for talking with NERD TREK.
If you are interested in checking out the 100% free and open source RPTools simply visit RPTools.net and click the download link!
December 5, 2011 (REDMOND, Wash.) – Paizo Publishing is proud to announce RPG Superstar 2012, the fifth season of its popular RPG design contest. The search for the newest talent in RPG design begins December 6, 2011 on paizo.com.
“Over the last five years, RPG Superstar has discovered some of the best new RPG designers in the business,” said Lisa Stevens, CEO of Paizo Publishing. “We’re excited to see the great new talent out there, and look forward to working with the winners for years to come!”
RPG Superstar consists of five RPG design challenges spanning several weeks. After a team of celebrity judges winnows down all open call submissions to 32 finalists, members of the paizo.com messageboard community post their comments and vote on following round submissions until only four finalists remain.
This year’s ultimate winner will write a Pathfinder Module to be published by Paizo. Three runners-up will win assignments to write Pathfinder Society Scenarios, meaning all finalists will be offered professional writing contracts with Paizo Publishing, and an opportunity to begin their freelance careers with high-profile RPG releases!
Last year Sam Zeitlin’s The Midnight Mirror emerged victorious as 2011’s RPG Superstar winner after a week of public comment and fan voting at paizo.com. His winning adventure releases in February as a full-color printed Pathfinder Module.
Paizo has selected four judges to oversee the competition. RPG Superstar veteran judge and Paizo Developer Sean K Reynolds leads a team of seasoned professionals including Ryan Dancey, the father of Open Gaming and the CEO of Goblinworks (designers of the forthcoming Pathfinder Online MMO), Legendary Games president and Necromancer Games founder Clark Peterson, and RPG Superstar 2009 winner and frequent Pathfinder author Neil Spicer. Additional guest judges will assist with each installment of the multi-challenge contest. The judges will critique each round’s entries before the public vote.
Starting at 2 PM Pacific Time on December 6, 2011, contestants will be able to submit their RPG Superstar entry atpaizo.com/rpgsuperstar. For the first round, that entry will be a wondrous item designed for use with Paizo’s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Each entry must be 300 words or less, and must include all of the proper mechanics and flavor. Contestants must submit their entry by January 6. Judges will select the top 32 entries to be announced on January 24; those 32 contestants will be assigned a new design task and their entries will be posted on paizo.com for the public to read, critique, and vote on. The designers garnering the most votes in each round will continue on to subsequent rounds.
Specifics for each challenge will be announced as each round begins. The winner of RPG Superstar 2012 will be announced on April 3, 2012. Complete rules and a submission form are available at paizo.com/rpgsuperstar.
Do you have what it takes to be the next RPG Superstar? Go to paizo.com/rpgsuperstar and start your journey now!
About Paizo Publishing
Paizo Publishing®, LLC is a leading publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, board games, and novels. Paizo’s Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game, the result of the largest open playtest in the history of tabletop gaming, is currently the best-selling tabletop roleplaying game in hobby stores. Pathfinder Adventure Path is the most popular and best-selling monthly product in the tabletop RPG industry. Paizo.com is the leading online hobby retail store, offering tens of thousands of products from a variety of publishers to customers all over the world. In the nine years since its founding, Paizo Publishing has received more than 50 major awards and has grown to become one of the most influential companies in the hobby games industry.
Paizo Publishing, LLC, the Paizo golem logo and Pathfinder are registered trademarks of Paizo Publishing, LLC, and Pathfinder Chronicles, Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and Pathfinder Society are trademarks of Paizo Publishing, LLC.
Goblinworks to Produce Next-Generation Fantasy Sandbox MMO
Paizo Publishing, LLC has licensed the MMORPG electronic gaming rights to its smash-hit Pathfinder Roleplaying Game intellectual property to Goblinworks, a Redmond, Washington game developer and publisher that will create Pathfinder Online, a next-generation fantasy sandbox massively multiplayer online game. Founded by Paizo co-owner Lisa Stevens (Pathfinder RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade, Magic: The Gathering), game industry veteran Ryan S. Dancey (Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition, EVE Online), and experienced MMO developer Mark Kalmes (Microsoft, Cryptic Studios, CCP), Goblinworks is an independent company that will work with Paizo Publishing to bring the award-winning world and adventures of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to the online gaming market. The process has only just begun, and there is plenty of opportunity for gamers to get in on the ground floor of this exciting new project. Paizo and Goblinworks are committed to soliciting player feedback about the Pathfinder Online project, and more information can be found at goblinworks.com.
Pathfinder Online will cast players as heroes in a unique online fantasy world filled with sword & sorcery adventures and kingdoms inhabited and controlled by thousands of competing players. Players can explore, develop, adventure, and dominate by playing fighters, rogues, clerics, or any of Pathfinder’s many character classes, or they can go beyond the standard options to create nearly any type of character imaginable. Find lairs, ruins, and caverns filled with monstrous creatures and incredible treasure. Build glittering cities of castles and bustling markets. Take to the battlefield with vast armies to seize and hold territory. Players change the world and create new stories as they compete for resources, land, and military might. The possibilities are endless.
“I’ve been hoping for a chance to work with Lisa and the Paizo team on a Pathfinder project for years, and now that we’re joining forces to produce Pathfinder Online, I couldn’t be happier or more excited,” said Goblinworks CEO Ryan S. Dancey. “My goal is to bring the high-quality experience Paizo has delivered for Pathfinder to the MMO platform, and to give players another fantastic way to experience the world of Golarion.”
I know, you are all wringing your hands waiting for the first installment of the Pathfinder Beginner Box through the eyes of my son and his friends. I swear to you it is coming so please don’t locate me using Google Earth and pound on my door and windows like the mob of angry zombies that attacked while waiting for my latest SKYRIM article! If you missed that article you can jump back and read my son’s reactions to the Pathfinder Beginner Box here!
This article will still whet your taste buds in preparation for additional Pathfinder articles to come. This is the story of Kids GMing for Parents or how I got my wife to play role-playing games!
My son Justice has been very excited about role-playing games ever since he saw some friends and I gather around the table with small painted miniatures, funny yet colorful looking dice, and beautiful model scenery and maps. From the age of 5 he was asking me when he would have the chance to play. I told him that his time would come, he just needed to wait a few more years until he could understand the basics. That time finally came, and for the past three nights, Justice has sat behind the GM screen running Pathfinder games! (Actually he paces around the room with the adventure module in hand!)
I’ll start at the beginning. During Justice’s first game with his friends he was GM. My wife was in the kitchen baking up one of her delicious concoctions (she really should start her own bakery) and overheard the entire adventure. Her post-adventure comment to me: “I like the way they play!” “How do you mean?” I said. “The players say what they want to do and Justice lets them do it!” My wife let loose a devilish grin revealing a starved role-player hiding inside. Although I always encourage exploration and pushing the limits in my games there are limitations to characters abilities. For example a plain old fighter doesn’t know how to use a magic wand without a special skill and that’s just how it is… or is it? The old seers who crafted the first couple editions of AD&D always prefaced the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters guide with something important and meaningful. I think Zeb Cook’s preface to the AD&D 2nd edition Dungeon Master’s guide sums up how I feel about RPGs and the way they are meant to be played:
Let’s assume that since you’re reading this, your are, or plan to be, a Dungeon Master. By now, you should be familiar with the rules in the Player’s Handbook. You’ve probably already noticed things you like or things you would have done differently. If you have, congratulations. You’ve got the spirit every Dungeon Master needs. As you go through this rule book, I encourage you to continue to make these choices.
Choice is what the AD&D game is all about. We’ve tried to offer you what we think are the best choices for your AD&D campaign, but each of us has different likes and dislikes. The game that I enjoy may be quite different from your own campaign. But it is not for me to say what is right or wrong for your game. True, I and everyone working on the AD&D game have had to make fundamental decisions, but we’ve tried to avoid being dogmatic and inflexible. The AD&D game is yours, it’s mine, it’s every player’s game.
So is there an “official” AD&D game? Yes, but only when there needs to be. Although I don’t have a crystal ball, it’s likely that tournaments and other official events will use all of the core rules in these books. Optional rules may or may not be used, but it’s fair to say that all players need to know about them even if they don’t have them memorized. The Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide give you what you’re expectedto know, but that doesn’t mean the game begins and ends there. Your game will go in directions not yet explored and your players will try things others think strange. Sometimes these strange things will work; sometimes they won’t. Just accept this, be ready for it, and enjoy it.
Take the time to have fun with the AD&D rules. Add, create, expand, and extrapolate. Don’t just let the game sit there, and don’t become a rules lawyer worrying about each piddly little detail. If you can’t figure out the answer, MAKE IT UP! And whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of believing these rules are complete. They are not. You cannot sit back and let the rule book do everything for you. Take the time and effort to become not just a good DM, but a brilliant one.
At conventions, in letters, and over the phone I’m often asked for the instant answer to a fine point of the game rules. More often than not, I come back with a question—what do you feel is right? And the people asking the questions discover that not only can they create an answer, but that their answer is as good as anyone else’s. The rules are only guidelines.
At the beginning of the first Dungeon Master Guide, Gary Gygax stressed that each of us, working from a common base, would make the AD&D game grow in a variety of different directions. That is more true today than ever. Don’t be afraid of experimentation, but do be careful. As a Dungeon Master, you have great power, and “with great power comes great responsibility.” Use it wisely.
David “Zeb” Cook (Preface to the AD&D 2nd edition Dungeon Masters Guide)
Notice the bold underlined text above? “The rules are only guidelines.” I realized with great sadness that this ethos had begun to slip away from me as time had gone by. Players who constantly reference their PHB, rule lawyers, and perfectionism have pushed me away from all that I hold dear in the game. The freedom to do whatever you want? I want my fantasy back!
So, coming back to my wife and I talking… she had mentioned that the kids were doing whatever they wanted in the game. If they didn’t understand a rule they threw it away or made up their own. In the end they had an AMAZING time! My wife had such a great time listening to them play I realized this was my chance. The chance to finally convince my wife she needs to play role-playing games. (If you ever get this chance don’t let it slip away, they come only once a decade!) How was I to get the entire family involved in a way which would promote healthy exploration and complete and utter freedom and creativity? Ah ha! Instead of my experienced hand and mind behind the GM screen I would let Justice run the game. My wife and I would play a couple characters in the Pathfinder Beginner Box and run through the dungeon.
In the past my wife would take a week just rolling up a character. She spent hours writing every detail down with perfect penmanship and absolute purpose. By the time she was done she didn’t want to play her character lest she die! Realizing this I grabbed the pre-made characters that come with the Pathfinder Beginner Box, golden! I asked her if she wanted the female cleric that looked like a man or the slender and attractive elvish rogue. She of course went with the rogue. I handed her the sheet, we put our 2 dimensional cardboard avatars upon the flipmat and Justice opened his adventure module. He read the intro to the adventure which I won’t display here since I hate spoilers as much as you do! We were whisked away into a fantasy world just like that! No need to spend hours rolling up characters or arguing over mundane details (this is NOT a mundane detail MICHAEL!! sorry, random Office Space reference…)
Oh yes, my choice? I went with the warrior. I prefer to play wizards, but I knew since our party numbered only two that I would have to play the tank. Plus, if my wife died in the first adventure she may never try playing again. This was one of the most purposeful adventures I had ever been on! The fate of my family’s ability to play role-playing games hung in a precarious balance. We were attempting to take on an adventure meant for 4 players with only 2 and my son GMing. I hoped he would go easy, at least on my wife.
Our first encounter with a couple goblins went brilliantly! My wife used stealth to sneak up behind the first goblin and slayed him with a sneak attack outright. That put a smile on her face! I charged into battle swinging my trusty longsword prepared to decapitate the last goblin.. and missed! The goblin attacked me and rolled high, he hit. Next my wife attacked and hit again, rolling another high damage roll and killed the other goblin as well. I stood there looking like a big dumb brute. “Uh, nice work beautiful. Perhaps I should relinquish party leadership to you seeing as you best me at both combat and skill.” She gladly accepted (what wife doesn’t like having power over her husband’s player character?) and we moved into the next room.
Justice thoroughly enjoyed playing the role of GM and although he has a ways to go, he reminds me of myself at his age. Except this time, the parents are encouraging the child to get lost in a fantasy world. Throughout the adventure he made mistakes and said “Whoops, oh no! I messed up!” I gave him my sagely wisdom that I have learned from years of GMing. “Son, don’t tell the players when you mess up. Trust me, they will never ever know. Plus, there are no mistakes- there are just chances to use your imagination!” He smiled and nodded and we kept playing.
We have played 2 short sessions since that initial game. Now we keep our Pathfinder Beginner Box game sitting on the coffee table. Now each night instead of sneaking off to work on my website or watching Star Trek- the Next Generation, we spend time as a family adventuring through a dungeon while my son GMs!
When Justice walks upstairs he sees my towering bookshelves lined with the entire Forgotten Realms catalog from 1st edition, all of 2nd, and every book (save 1) from Forgotten Realms 3.5. I also have the healthy beginning of a Pathfinder RPG library (the core books and Advanced Players book). Oh yeah, don’t forget all the old issues of Dragon magazine dating back as far as the late 70’s all missing covers! 😛 I try to imagine having access to such a library at his age and I just can’t do it. Is it overwhelming? Exciting? In time I’m sure he will pull a few of the old RPG tomes off that shelf, dust them off, and ask “Dad, what’s ADVANCED Dungeons & Dragons?” I will smile proudly and sit him down to roll up a character while I try my hand at DMing for HIM!
Last week I spoke with Erik Mona over at Paizo Publishing about getting a crack at the new Pathfinder Beginner Box set. After watching the Youtube video of Erik slamming down that heavy box of goodies and pulling out stuff like rabbits from a hat, I could not resist. I am a hard core RPG Dungeon Master hailing from the old school days of Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and the Forgotten Realms. Why would I be interested in a beginner box set? My son is 9 years old and try as he might, he has yet to master the complexities of D&D 3.5 or the Pathfinder Role-Playing game.
We bought him the Pathfinder Core Rules book for his birthday. He was so excited to start playing with his friends. When they finally sat down they were so confused by the rules that they needed my help with every little detail.
I would love to help them, but one of the best experiences in my life was opening those brand new RPG books as a child, and not understanding a thing. The mystery that all those charts and skills (in those days proficiencies) held behind closed doors would slowly come to light as the years went on and we advanced in our games.
I wanted my son to have a similar experience, but since the Pathfinder Core Rules book is such a large book it is fairly daunting for a 9 year old. After watching him in frustration I finally gave in and helped him figure out how to roll up a druid.
In the old days as children we would dig aimlessly through the 1st edition PHB & DMG, right around age 9 as I recall. Soon after, TSR came out with the D&D Red Box which was aimed toward a younger audience and was a great relief to us kids. When I found out that Paizo was releasing a new beginner box set I knew it was time to get to work on a new product review. I would experience this review through the eyes of my son.
Last night the box set arrived. When my son found out he could hardly stand the anticipation! We tore open the cardboard shipping box to get at the glossy colorful contents inside.
This box had everything! One by one all of the goodies started popping out (perhaps this was a box of holding!!).
Pathfinder Beginner Box (contents):
A 64-page Hero’s Handbook, detailing character creation, spells, equipment, and general rules for playing the game
A 96-page Game Master’s Guide packed with adventures, monsters, magical treasures, and advice on how to narrate the game and control the challenges faced by the heroes
A complete set of 7 high-impact polyhedral dice
More than 80 full-color pawns depicting tons of heroes, monsters, and even a fearsome black dragon
Four pregenerated character sheets to throw you right into the action
Four blank character sheets to record the statistics and deeds of your custom-made hero
A durable, reusable, double-sided Flip-Mat play surface that works with any kind of marker
We cleared everything off the dining room table and started setting things up. We spread out all the goodies as if we were in the middle of a session. I was very impressed with the detail that Paizo has put into their product. Everything was in full color glossy and there were TONS of illustrations throughout the books. This is eye candy for kids and is great for the imagination. I give two thumbs up to whoever in the creative department said “These books will be for kids, we need LOADS of illos!”
Next off, the miniature cardboard tokens are ingenious. I love being able to pop them in and out of the stands as needed. I currently have over 10 plastic boxes of miniatures. If I take them all to a gaming session I have to load my hiking pack up well over my head just to fit them all. If I had these cardboard tokens it would make my life a lot easier. These tokens bring to mind the Dragonlance Tales of the Lance box set from TSR… they had little cardboard cut outs that you could use instead of miniatures. GREAT for kids!
The cardboard glossy flip map is fun as well, but since it’s so stiff it tends to bow up when you’re playing and the cardboard minis with their plastic stands aren’t heavy enough to hold it down. I’m sure it won’t be long before my son asks to use my Chessex Battlemat and pens for his gaming sessions!
The pre-generated character sheets are exactly what I need to finally convince my wife she needs to play role-playing games. In the past she would spend an entire week rolling up and creating a character. By the time she was done writing down every single spell and ability she no longer wanted to risk having the character killed in combat. Bonk! The sound of me hitting myself in the forehead… Ugh… NOW, I can simply hand her a pre-generated character sheet and say “Look honey, sit down… our son is now the game master and my fighter will tank. Don’t you worry about your precious wizard. No harm will come to him.”
Finally, Paizo has simplified the rules and placed them in two books. The Game Master’s Guide contains a complete adventure which goes hand in hand with the battlemat. The book also gives you the basics on how to run a game. The Hero’s Handbook is the equivalent of the Player’s Handbook and contains simple instructions for players on the different races and classes as well as spells and abilities.
After my son and I went through everything he was super excited to play, but would have to wait until morning to invite his friends over…
Today my son woke up bright and early as his friends were arriving. They would finally have a chance to play the new Pathfinder Beginner Box! My interview with him and his friends through the eyes of 9-10 year olds is forthcoming. Check back to NERD TREK and sign up for our email list to get the dirt straight from the mouths of the next generation of gamers!
Today Adventureaweek.com took another step toward fulfilling our ultimate goal of world domina… oh wait, that’s my other project. Today we accomplished one of our main goals!
I love the Pathfinder RPG and find that the simplified rules (especially when it comes to skills: perception & acrobatics to name a couple) make 3.5 even better. I owe a thank you to my players Topher & Eddie for bringing me over to PF from D&D 3.5. Thanks guys! I’ll still play 3.5 of course. Hell, I’ll still play 1st or 2nd edition AD&D given the chance! Ravenloft anyone? Uh oh, don’t get me started!
Obtained the Pathfinder compatibility license through Paizo! (+2/+5 vs. Pathfinder fan absorption)
Yes, that’s a treasure icon. I totally consider this license treasure.
So, it turns out that our license is only applicable if we sell PDF E-book versions of our Adventures. Good thing we were already planning on that! Monthly Subscribers will be able to purchase PDFs at a minimal fee and Annual Subscribers will be able to download any PDF Adventure they wish for free. Of course all of the locations, characters, and items will not come along for the ride, but everything you need to run the adventure will still be available to you in an offline format. Should you require some extreme details on a character or location you can always wing it (that’s what I do and my players never know the difference!)
It feels good to reach this milestone and realize that we’re finally getting close to launching this website. It’s been almost a year since the idea came about. We started with the basic web design and made a few hundred changes as I tested out GMing games for my players. Each change made things smoother and easier to run a gaming session. Now I can pull up an adventure and scroll down on my iPad quickly locating the information I need, or click on a map location then instantly jump directly to the description and read-aloud text for that location. This system we have created started as a wonderfully cloudy day-dream/idea, then came together as a test model, now we have a fully functional product! I finally have a tool which I get so excited to use in my games I fidget in my seat just waiting to get a response from my players to see if everyone can make the next game session!